March's spark of genius article
Spilled Spaghetti Leads to Good Licensing Deal
How did spilling hot spaghetti noodles lead to an invention and a very good licensing deal? For Athens, Texas, inventor Lesia Farmer, innovative ideas come often and unexpectedly. “I had a little accident while pouring hot noodles from a colander into a bowl. I missed the bowl and the hot noodles fell onto the floor and my foot, which burned and blistered my foot,” said Lesia. The accident caused Lesia to ponder, “There must to be something available that would prevent this from happening again.”
Many inventions start this way. But before the economy's down turn, she rarely had the time to juggle operating a family business with her husband to pursue creative ideas past the initial idea stage. With the economy in a slump and a slowed business, Lesia has extra time to pursue her ideas and make them a true invention.
She searched the Internet and local house ware stores for a gadget to keep her noodles off the floor. Unable to find a product that solved her problem, Lesia came up with an idea that now has a patent application on file at the USPTO and a licensing deal already signed. She worked on her idea and eventually filed a provisional patent application. She continued to push forward with her ideas. Prior to filing a non-provisional application, Lesia sought help from a friend to find a company that might be interested in her invention. From the friend’s suggestion and her personal search for a company with an inventor friendly reputation, Lesia found a very helpful and reputable company with a knowledgeable representative.
The company’s representative suggested incorporating multiple ideas into the non-provisional patent application. Lesia’s next step was to find an attorney to write the non-provisional patent application for her. She found a flexible attorney that allowed her to pay for services in installments. “The company was willing to pay for patenting costs, but I found my own attorney, who cost less. When we move on to international filings, then the company will help,” she said. By hiring her own attorney, Lesia will receive a higher royalty payment.
Lesia started her path to a licensing deal by filing a non-provisional patent application shortly after coming up with her concept and invention. While working with an attorney to write and file her non-provisional application, Lesia continued working with the company to get a good license agreement. Shortly after filing a non-provisional application, Lesia received an initial licensing contract from the company. She then hired another attorney to read over the terms of the agreement and to negotiate for her with the company. Lesia said, “My attorney read over the contract and negotiated with the company’s attorney until everything was agreeable to both parties.”
Later, the company’s representative asked Lesia if she wanted to exhibit her invention in Chicago at the International Home and Housewares Show 2011, the world’s largest home goods and house wares show. At the show, thousands of new products like Lesia's were showcased. Lesia needed a prototype to display at the show. But because of Chinese New Year celebrations, she could not get a prototype made on short notice. The company had a rapid prototype made that she exhibited at the Chicago show.
“My attorney, the company and my representative were a great help to me. I never thought that anyone would put a licensing agreement in front of me that was so fair," she said. She advised inventors to "keep pushing forward."
Lesia’s invention, which has a patent application awaiting review, provides a way to transfer hot pasta more safely than traditional colanders. By recognizing a need in her own kitchen, she created an innovation that may one day be used on the mass market.